I am here today to offer my service as United States Senator for the people of the great State of Wyoming. I will stand with you to preserve the natural beauty and wonder of our state, the lifestyle that we love, and the freedoms that we hold dear, while we look to the future with hope for our continued prosperity and the prosperity of our children.
I will be seeking the Democratic candidacy for election to the Senate seat that is currently held by Senator Mike Enzi.
We need new leadership in the United States Senate. The American People are looking for change. A recent Gallup opinion poll shows that less than 1 in 4 Americans approves of our current Congress. We have all grown tired of bitter partisan politics. We have grown tired of ineffective legislation from a congress that has been unable to adequately address any of the pressing problems that have arisen in the last decade and longer. Energy, education, health care, social security, our national debt, the trade deficit - each day our situation grows worse than it was the day before, but there are no legislative solutions in sight.
We have also grown tired of corruption, of lobbyists, of senseless spending on pork barrel projects. And I don't really believe one particular political party is to blame it is simply a failure of leadership that we must overcome.
And to overcome it, we need change. We need a fresh group of policy makers that are willing to put the needs of their country, and the needs of their states, ahead of their personal rivalries and the desires of their political party - individuals who seek solutions through bipartisan collaboration and support, rather than through the simple tyranny of the majority party.
I am a consensus builder. I don't believe truly great legislation - the kind America deserves - passes with 51 votes along party lines. We can do better than that. We all deserve better than that.
And I strongly believe we need to bring a broader range of knowledge and ideas to the Senate. We need skilled professionals with a diversity of backgrounds that are better suited for the challenges of the 21st century. There are zero scientists in the Senate. Zero PhDs. One engineering degree. And 60 lawyers.
Energy is very dear to the state of Wyoming, yet this is the group that we are counting on to develop a comprehensive energy policy, steeped in scientific and technical nuances, which will meet our needs for the 21st century. And they haven't done it. They've had ample time and opportunity, but we are no closer to ending our dependence on foreign oil than we were in the 1970s. We need a comprehensive solution that leverages all of our resources - coal, oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear - everything we've got, to meet our growing energy demand, eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, and simultaneously reduce our greenhouse gas and other emissions. As a Chemical Engineer, I know this can be done, and it can be done in a manner that stimulates our economy, reduces the trade deficit, and benefits U.S. & Wyoming industry, the environment, and our national security.
Wyoming is a leader in energy production. But in Washington, we have been deferential to the will of others. We diligently produce coal, oil, and gas, and let the other states sort out the political details. If you send me to Washington, I will make Wyoming a leader in energy policy - not just energy production.
I strongly support the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. We have now been there for 5 years. It has cost us nearly 4,000 American lives and over a trillion dollars. We don't have any tangible objectives or an exit strategy, but we claim to be 'making progress.' Regrettably, I don't know what we are progressing towards. I don't see any realistic accomplishments on the horizon that would be worth trading even a single additional American life. We are now primarily concerned with eliminating Al Qaeda in Iraq, an organization that arrived in Iraq after we did - and only because we were there - and that seeks to destabilize the fledgling Iraqi government because it hurts the United States to do so. It is time for the Iraqis to stand up and take control of their own destiny. I believe our exit will only help the Iraqi people.
But I certainly don't believe we should be soft on global terrorism. It's just that the answer isn't in Iraq. Osama Bin Laden is not waiting in Mosul. We need to take a proactive approach and bring the battle to the terrorists; root them out wherever they hide; strike quickly, quietly and effectively from a distance - as only we can do; and systematically dismantle their entire operation. We must develop newer and smarter approaches for dealing with asymmetric warfare so that we can effectively address terrorist threats. We must extend the capacity of our intelligence community, redouble our human intelligence efforts that specifically target terrorism and extremism, and strengthen our national technical means, so that we can obtain actionable intelligence without resorting to torture and the shameful need to justify it.
Military actions will be necessary in the coming years, but they can only address the symptoms, not the underlying cause. Diplomacy is the only solution, and it will require many years of hard work. We must reach out and forge relationships with the countries that give rise to extremists, help them to better implement the rule of law and to foster democratic ideals, and also assist them in educating their people so that the myths of extremism are unable to take root. We must show the world that the United States is not the 'Great Satan', by demonstrating compassion, warmth, and leadership to the rest of the international community.
I'd like to take a minute to briefly discuss my views on some of the issues that are important to me, and that I know are important to the people of Wyoming.
To begin with, I'd like to make it clear that I support the United States Constitution in its entirety - all the rights, all the amendments. It is a truly exceptional document and I believe we do our country and the American people a disservice each time we diminish our constitutional freedoms in the name of national security, or just because people in Washington feel it is for our own good. It isn't.
Our federal government was formed on the premise of protecting the liberties of our people. In that spirit, I believe that all U.S. citizens should be exactly equal in the eyes of the government - discrimination of any kind, regardless of intention or plurality of support, is unacceptable. An American is an American - no more, but certainly no less.
Each of us has the right to keep and bear arms, if we so choose. We have the right to protect ourselves, and the ones we love, without fear of reprisal. And it is during crisis that this essential freedom becomes most valuable - we need to make sure that no government, at any level, will ever again make the mistaken assumption that they can restrict this constitutional freedom when we are most in need of it.
We are losing our privacy each and every day. The Federal Government has been assaulting our privacy rights in an effort to protect us from terrorism and other threats. I certainly appreciate the intentions, but find the means unacceptable. I am not willing to support the heavy handed argument that 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.' The 4th Amendment guarantees us a lot better than that, and we must fight to get it back.
I am also very concerned about our education system. I want it to be the best in the world, rather than a modest top 20. 'No Child Left Behind' aspires to mediocrity, but fails to adequately fund it. That is not a solution. We must inspire inquiry. We must continue to produce the world's brightest individuals, creative thinkers, and explorers. We are the innovation engine of the world. We may not be able to make things more cheaply, but we can make things better. And that's why we have the most productive economy in the world. Education is the key to maintaining that leadership. We need to pay our teachers more, keep them highly trained, have them develop curricula for the 21st century, and find ways to bring national experts from outside of the educational system into the system to share their experience.
Health care policy clearly needs a bit of work. I believe all Americans must have access to adequate and affordable health care services that highlight preventive medicine - health care, rather than disease care, as the expression goes. But getting there is the challenge. Most of the plans that are floating around right now neglect what I consider to be the most significant problem - namely that healthcare costs have been skyrocketing in recent years. Before we establish a national program, we should address the actual source of the problem, and find a way to reduce the costs of health care in the United States. We can't just throw money at this one and make it go away. The healthcare system is terribly deep and complex. We need to bring together doctors, hospital administrators, health insurance providers, malpractice insurance providers, and consumer advocates; and mediate a recommended solution by them that would dramatically reduce costs and end the upward spiral of healthcare expenses we have observed in the past twenty years. Until we control costs, all national coverage solutions will simply shift the expense from our insurance premiums to our income tax or the national debt. I don't find either of those options to be at all palatable.
The strength of our economy in the coming decades will depend on us finding creative and effective solutions to our health care dilemma and our energy crisis. It will rest upon our investment in the education of our children. However, it will also require sensible economic policy and government spending. I can assure you right now that we don't need more taxes. We need less spending, and more sensible spending. It is an insult to the American people that the Senate was recently unable to pass a 1 year ban on frivolous pork barrel programs. The proposal was defeated by a wide margin. I am happy to say that both Wyoming Senators joined the minority in noble defeat. I know that regardless of political party, Wyoming believes in small government, low taxes, and sensible spending. We need to return to the days of federal budget surplus - getting out of Iraq will help that among other things. We also need to formulate and execute a long term plan to eliminate our national debt. I would like to hand a zero balance to my children. I would also like to hand them a small trade surplus, rather than the massive trade deficit we have today. Balanced trade is a sign of a healthy and sustainable economy. We need to take measures to promote fair trade and to reduce our trade deficit. Eliminating our dependence on foreign oil will clearly ease the deficit. I also strongly support country of origin labeling and the extension of country of origin requirements to meet the needs of the 21st century electronic marketplace.
As your United States Senator, I will be a leader in the development of our nation's energy policy; a proponent of education; I will work to return the United States to its respected position as the diplomatic leader of the international community; I will support a stronger, smarter, and more agile military and intelligence community that is better adapted to the asymmetric threat of global terrorism; I will protect your individual rights and your constitutional freedoms; and I will support our future economy by working to keep our taxes low, our spending lower, and our budget balanced.
We need better government - a government focused on solutions, rather than partisan politics. And that's what I offer.
Christopher J. Rothfuss